By Garet Garrett
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Additional info for American Story: The Real Story of the Real America from Its Beginnings to Now
War with Great Britain was averted for the time being, the French were very mad, but at the same time it was as if the American Hag had been rent. The people divided three ways. There was a peace party, represented by Washington; a pro-British party, which was largely New England, and a pro-French party, calling itself the republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, who was Secretary of State. Just then, fortunately, the French sent over an amazing person named Citizen Genet, who entered at Charleston in a grand manner, threw French gold around, fitted out privateers to prey upon British commerce, moved triumphantly from there toward Philadelphia accompanied by the plaudits of republican crowds waving the French colors, and behaved FREEDOM ON A RAFT 29 generally as if he were in a French province.
Only the people are sovereign. The people collectively are king. Yet even here is a limitation, perhaps the most significant one of all. The people may change the Constitution to their heart's content, they may even tear it up if they like and write a new one, only provided they do it by such deliberate and orderly procedures as are set forth in the Constitution itself. This is to safeguard not the Constitution only but the people themselves, against the dangers of passionate, impulsive and unreflective action.
It was idea only. In view of all history there was no reason why the North American Continent should not have become a New Europe, divided among many nations; but if there was going to be a nation certain things were immediately imperative. The first was the Constitution. The purposes of the Constitution were, first, to create a central government with power to conduct the aHairs of a nation, and secondly, to impose upon people the disciplines of self-government. If it was a good Constitution it would be unpopular, hecause, first, each state would have to surrender some measure of its precious sovereignty, and because, secondly, the revolution had left in people the passionate feeling that any government at all was a necessary evil and the less of it the better.
American Story: The Real Story of the Real America from Its Beginnings to Now by Garet Garrett